Why I’m Psyched about Awesome Foundation Seattle

July 21, 2011

This is Suzanne Tidwell and that fuzzy, rainbowed thing beside her is a tree. Suzanne is a self-proclaimed yarn bomber — think Stich’n Bitch + graffiti.

Today, I watched Suzanne and her friends transform 7 or 8 of the Occidental Park maple trees into a fanciful, Christo-meets-Seuss installation (more pics below).

I had a chance to chat with Suzanne during Arts Walk. She’s been scouring every Value Village in greater Seattle for discount yarn. She won a grant from 4Culture. And then came the paperwork and the permissions. In other words, a lot of love and hard work.

The result? Complete surprise and delight from all passers-by. People petting trees. A reason to stop for a snapshot with a friend. Awesome.

Suzanne was happy to hear that we are launching an Awesome Foundation in Seattle. She told me that winning traditional arts project grants can be tricky. “Foundations won’t often fund your project until it’s nearly completed,” making the start-up process challenging, especially for new artists like herself. A little recognition and a $1,000 grant for supplies could be a very meaningful first step for a new project.

Coming home inspired by Suzanne and her yarn bomb, I wanted to reflect on my personal motivation for launching Awesome Foundation Seattle.

  • First off, I want to see how awesome $1,000 can be. In my professional life, it seems that if a project doesn’t cost at least $100k, it can be starved of attention and support.
  • I want to meet the people of Seattle (and beyond) who can make $1,000 awesome. I’ve been coming and going from Seattle for study and work since 2005. Now that I’ve returned and hope to stay, Awesome Foundation is my call out to the local dreamers and makers – let’s bring some new fun, brains and hope to the city!
  • I’m a nerd for experiments in collaboration and community coordination. I want Awesome Foundation to be my new lab.
  • To a long-time non-profit professional, Awesome Foundation is counter-intuitive. Is “awesome” a mission? Can a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens really change the world, without big dollars and big institutions? Is philanthropy the new punk? I want to find out.
  • Finally, I want to spend more of my days inspired. And, if I’m lucky, I want to inspire more people to spend more of their days inspired. Inspired by people like Suzanne, by more color for trees, by new friends and new ideas.

Will you join me?

I’d love to hear from you. If you’re already an Awesome Foundation trustee with another chapter, leave a comment about why you’re psyched. If you live in Seattle, use the comments section to point out something local and awesome that inspires you.

And finally — Seattle-area folks — if you want to learn more about the nascent Awesome Foundation chapter, please contact me at james.nathaniel [at] gmail [dot] com soon and help us spread the word.

To learn more about Suzanne, visit her new site: http://suzannetidwell.com/.

And, better yet, come on down to Pioneer Square to check out her work. The yarn is acrylic and the trees will stay in their current Suessy state through the summer.


Originally posted on June 3 at nathanieljames.org.  Check out the great comments from other Awesome Foundation trustees on the original post.

UPDATE: Since I posted this piece, we’ve had a community information meeting with about 25 folks and signed up all the trustees we need to get started.  We expect to put out our first call for proposals in mid-August!


Now, as promised, more awesome pics: